Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest

The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest

Lynne Cherry
Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Harcourt, 1990   ISBN: 0152026142

A woodcutter goes into the rain forest and sets about cutting down an enormous kapok tree. After a time he gets tired and he sits down at the base of the great tree to have a rest. It is not long before he is fast asleep.

As he sleeps the animals in the forest begin to emerge. One by one they beg the woodcutter to spare the tree. It is their home and they depend on it for survival. In addition many of the creatures who live in the tree are an essential part of the rain forest ecosystem. For example the little bee whose hive is in the tree tells the sleeping man that it not only lives in the kapok tree but it also pollinates “the trees and flowers throughout the rain forest.”

A group of monkeys who “have seen the ways of man” explain that cutting down the trees in the forest can cause untold damage to the entire ecosystem, for without the roots of the trees to hold it in place, the soil will be washed away when the heavy rains arrive. One by one birds and mammals, frogs and a little “rain forest child” come forward to ask the man to consider what he is about to do and to think about the future.

In this magical picture book Lynne Cherry gives the rain forest a voice, a voice which asks humans to think about what they are doing before they damage the environment. She uses her animal characters to show her audience that the rain forest is a precious place which is beautiful, rich with life, and vital for the health of the whole planet. Children who are not familiar with the idea that plants and animals are dependent on one another for survival will find this story intriguing, and they will have many questions to ask about the ideas that are put forward in the book.

Throughout the book gorgeous illustrations rich with color and details capture the beauty and complexity of rain forest flora and fauna.